This is Part 2 of my review of Emirates A380 First Class on a recent flight from Dubai to London.
The official Emirates A380 First Class website is here.
Emirates A380 First Class food and drink
As I mentioned in Part 1, Dom Perignon 2006 is the current house champagne of A380 First Class. This is a step up, in price (£110 per bottle) if not necessarily taste, from the Billecart-Salmon served by Etihad.
Emirates also puts substantially more money into its First Class wine. The Etihad First Class wines were selling for around £15 per bottle in UK supermarkets. A typical Emirates First Class wine, such as the Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2013, is nearer £25-£30. Some, such as The Mascot 2009, a Sauvignon Blanc, are nearer the £90 – £100 mark.
If you enjoy fine wine, or if you ever wanted to see what £90 gets you in terms of a Cabernet Sauvignon at retail price, then you could pass a very pleasant seven hours in Emirates A380 First Class!
You will notice that I didn’t visit the A380 bar on this flight, which is situated at the back of Business Class and is a bit of a walk from First.
As a day flight from Dubai to London, we were served lunch with the option – which I turned down – of a light snack nearer to landing.
For appetisers, you could pick from:
- caviar with melba toast and blinis
- beef consomme with beet and vegetable brunoise
- sweet potato and celeriac soup
- traditional Arabic mezze
- salmon roulade with seared tuna loin, smoked halibut and asparagus
- bresaola with marinated artichoke hearts and parmesan
I went for the caviar because, well, because I could. And because I rarely find it in the fridge at home. I don’t think that I have ever eaten caviar outside of an aircraft!
The main courses were more traditional:
- grilled lamb loin with rosemary jus, potato gratin, green beans and yellow courgettes
- prawn machbus, marinated in Middle Eastern spices with rice and pine nuts
- roasted chicken, with red pepper coulis, fingerling potatoes and steamed broccoli
- trenette pasta, with mushroom and thyme sauce, braised cherry tomatoes and parmesan
- snapper arrabbiata with spicy tomato sauce, puy lentil ragout and steamed broccoli
- steak sandwich (this is the Qantas ‘partnership’ option!)
Side dishes are also available.
I went for the chicken:
….. which was perfectly pleasant and not dry, which is always a risk. It wasn’t life changing but roasted chicken rarely is!
The dessert selection was less enticing:
- sticky date pudding
- chocolate cheese cake with raspberries and creme anglaise
- selection of Arabic pastries
I went with the cheesecake:
Emirates also has an impressive looking cheese selection with six different options.
I skipped the ‘light bites’ later on which would have been sandwiches, scones, savouries, vegetable samosas or a pepper steak pie. However, when I returned from the shower the crew had left me a fruit plate:
As I mentioned in Etihad A380 First Class food and drink review, I still rate Lufthansa and Swiss as the leaders in First Class food. (I’ve not flown the new Air France First Class service which is also meant to be excellent.)
Comparing Emirates and Etihad, Emirates is head and shoulders in the lead in terms of the quality of wine on offer. I would say that the food offering is equal – both were good but not great. Emirates gets a brownie point if want caviar, Etihad gets a brownie points because of the ‘we’ll make you whatever you want if we’ve got the ingredients’ meal service.
The Heathrow arrivals service
All Emirates business and first class passengers get a free chauffeur service within a 70-mile radius of the airport. This also applies to reward tickets.
As you emerge airside in Heathrow Terminal 3 there is an Emirates representative to meet you. He will point you to the car waiting area – this is only a few feet away but you can’t actually see it as you enter the airside area.
Once you have given your name, there is seating, coffee and newspapers:
…. to pass the few minutes until your driver is ready. It is then literally a 10 second walk to get outside where you vehicle will be waiting. It is an amazingly quick transfer.
I don’t know if I got lucky or if Emirates allocates its best cars to First Class passengers, but this was the smartest car (Mercedes S Class, operated by Tristar) I had out of the four I was given on this trip. It was a very pleasant end to the trip.
I made a ‘short but sweet’ video which gives you a better view of the cabin and the food. There are no ads because YouTube apparently found the shower footage made the video unsuitable! (This is the same video I linked to in Part 1, so there is no need to click it again if you saw it yesterday.)
If you can’t see the video then click here to visit our YouTube channel where you can watch it. You can also subscribe to our channel from that page.
I paid for the ticket using 85,000 Emirates Skywards miles, obtained via a 1:1 transfer from American Express Membership Rewards. (Those Amex card referral points come in useful!) The taxes and charges were Dhs 1,535 which is currently £335.
This is more expensive than a one-way British Airways First Class redemption to London (68,000 Avios on an off-peak date + £198) but included four chauffeur drives which saved me around £200 – or £80 if I would have taken the tube instead in London.
It would be a shame not to try Emirates First Class once if you want a high-end First experience – and a shower. The easiest way to get it using miles would be to get the current sign-up bonus on the Emirates credit cards (25,000 on Elite and 12,000 on the free card – and you can get both), put some spend through on the Elite Amex (2 miles per £1) and top up using Amex Membership Rewards points.
Heavy credit card spenders could rack up the necessary miles purely via the Emirates Elite American Express card which earns 2 miles per £1. If you put a lot of business expenses on your credit card then this may be something that is achieveable.
The Emirates First Class product still impresses with its drinks selection, the huge TV and massive IFE selection and the semi-private suite seat with the closing doors.
The food is marginally less impressive and the seat could do with a bit of an overhaul, but you will still find it more than comfortable. I found the First Class lounge in Dubai to be eerily deserted and in Heathrow you are sharing the Business Class lounge with no private dining – not so great.
Which is best? Emirates A380 First Class or Etihad A380 First Class Apartment?
The Etihad First Class Apartment wins out purely on the basis of ‘wow’ factor, because you will never get as much private space to yourself on a commercial aircraft.
If we break it down, line by line:
Best chauffeur cars? Emirates
Best wine? Emirates
Best food? Tie, but leaning to Etihad purely on the basis on ‘we’ll cook whatever you want if we’ve got the ingredients’
Best IFE? Tie, both are very impressive. The Etihad screen is bigger.
Best lounge? Etihad wins at Heathrow and, although I’ve not been, I imagine the new Abu Dhabi First Class lounge beats the Emirates First Class ‘floor’
Best seat? Etihad wins for sheer scale, and I found it a bit less solitary this time, although still a little so
Best shower and bathroom? Emirates
In reality, if you’ve never experienced either product then you will be impressed.
You can find out more about Emirates A380 First Class on this special page of the Emirates website.